Johnny O’Connell used a daring last-lap pass to muscle his way to victory in Race 1 of the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Sonoma Presented by Cadillac.
The veteran Cadillac pilot jumped to second on the first lap of the race from his third-place starting spot and settled into a rhythm behind pole-sitter Austin Cindric, and that’s how it stayed until the race’s final minute.
The defining move came on the last lap of the 50-minute event, when O’Connell drove his No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3 deep into Turn 7 underneath Cindric’s McLaren and somehow got the move to stick.
He had attempted a similar pass unsuccessfully five-minutes earlier, but the second time was the charm and O’Connell went on to win by 0.716-seconds.
After conceding the race lead to O’Connell, Cindric immediately came under fire from Michael Cooper and the second Cadillac but was able to keep him at bay and hold on to the second-place result.
Cooper, who entered the weekend third in World Challenge GT points, finished third, directly ahead of championship-rival Alvaro Parente in the second K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3.
Points leader Patrick Long was unable to overcome a poor ninth-place qualifying effort and had to settle for eighth in the No. 58 Wright Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Although deprived of his first-career World Challenge win, Cindric matched his career-best finish from Race 1 at Mid-Ohio and set the race’s fastest lap, ensuring he will start on pole position for tomorrow’s 50-minute race.
GTA was settled without the fireworks, with Michael Schein in the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Wright Motorsports holding off Scuderia Corsa’s No. 07 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 driven by Martin Fuentes.
Schein may have won the race, but the second-place result locked up the 2016 GTA championship for Fuentes and the team.
GMG and driver Alec Udell triumphed in the GT Cup class, taking the win over Sloan Urry in the spec Porsche category.
Race 2 is scheduled for 1:15 PT tomorrow.
RESULTS: Race 1